TRIBUTE TESTING BLOG WEEK 3: A Question of Driving

The Auto-Trail Tribute has a 115hp Fiat engine
The Auto-Trail Tribute has a 115hp Fiat engine

Friday, 21, Jul 2017 03:52

by Daniel Cartwright

In Week 3 of our long term test, we look at what it is like to drive the Auto-Trail Tribute 670. In this review, I will look at different common driving questions followed by a brief summary for anyone who is a novice and also a summary for the more experienced.

Before we start the Tribute review, a few words on what our test has included: As per the outline of our real world test we have covered 2,150 miles in the first three weeks of the test. We have taken on every type of road from small single track country roads to motorways and we have fully tested about town by driving and parking in central London (including parking on brick lane at 5:30pm on a Friday) and central Birmingham.. just for fun.

Cab and comfort

The Tribute 670 cab is a very pleasant place to be. Firstly, the driver and passenger seats are a pleasure, they are wide, supportive and both the back and base can be adjusted meaning you can find your perfect driving position. Not having a bed above the cab makes the cab feel very light and spacious, furthermore it makes getting in and out of the cab both from the driver's door and the habitation much easier. No bent shuffle required anywhere in the Tribute 670. The dash is well equipped with everything from cruise control to USB and Auxiliary connections so you can listen to your audiobooks on those long journeys. Storage is more than ample and my wife and found that a picnic hamper sits very well between the driver and passenger seats. Finally, unlike some motorhomes the passenger is not left out. they have a fully adjustable captains chair and because of the layout there is loads of passenger leg room.

Transporting 'rattle snakes'

We considered putting the inevitable rattle section into comfort but for the Tribute we thought it deserved a section of it's own. Anyone who has driven a few motorhomes know that they rattle, some bang and rattle but it's rare to find a motorhome that out on the road doesn't sound like you're transporting a nest of 'rattle snakes' in the back somewhere. On long drives no matter how comfortable you are, that rattle can drive you wild until you stop to search around and find it. The Tribute is that rare beast, that once the cooker top is secured, is rattle, crash and bang free. Rattles when driving a motorhome are generally because some fixture or fitting is either loose or the frame of the habitation area moves slightly with the bumps of the road. Being a van conversion certainly helps Auto-Trail achieve this reduction in rattle but it is also down to the quality of the design, engineering and craftpersonship when building the motorhome. Anyone in the trade will tell you a rattle-free motorhome means it's very well put together.

Long Trips

Before picking it up, I noted it had the 115hp Fiat engine, and given the 750 miles a week planned test I did think perhaps the 130hp engine would have been better for those long distances. Once again I was wrong. The Tribute is perfectly well powered, and you have good acceleration all the way past 70mph meaning changing lanes even in heavy traffic is easy. The engine and gearbox seem perfectly aligned for its weight and our roads, i.e. 70 is a very comfortable 2500rpm and just about in the torque range and that at 50mph the Tribute can be in 4th for that extra acceleration or 5th gear for that bit of economy, neither of which strain the gearbox or engine. The motorway driving experience is also greatly aided by being a van conversion. it is not only aerodynamic for better road use and handling, it is also much more resilient to cross winds. Think about putting your favourite seat in a big modern estate car and that's driving the Tribute.

About town and parking

Taking the Tribute into central London and parking it on street outside our office (70 Wapping Wall) was easy. In traffic the hill start assist is a joy and pulling away is smooth. on congested roads third gear will give you a hassle free drive between about 10 and 35 meaning you're not changing gear all the time. The brakes are progressive so when you're in stop-start traffic and someone pulls into your lane causing you to brake suddenly, the Tribute deals with it without fuss and again without the whole van shaking. Once in a town centre on small busy roads you start to notice the turning circle. despite being "reasonably" long (by van conversion standards) the turning is incredible and more than compensates for the length. The 670 feels like it can turn on the spot, 3-point turns in a road only just wider than the Tribute is long are no problem at all. Not only being able to cope with around town, the Tribute offers some benefits for those who have never tried it, the elevated driving position gives you a perfect view of the road and traffic ahead to manage your speed and keep constantly moving.

With the incredible turning circle and the huge split angle rear view mirrors, on street reverse parking is easy. In both London and Birmingham I was able to easily fit all 4 wheels into a single bay both length and width. It might be worth looking for two spaces to help give you space to get in but once in, a single space will do. This also means you buy a normal car parking ticket not one for commercial vehicle parking.

Options options options

With any leisure vehicle there are numerous options you can add to the drive, engine, habitation and media. The model I tested had the "drivers pack" added to it. This includes things like hill assist, steering wheel controls, air conditioning, passenger airbag and some cosmetic upgrades on the exterior. This model did not have reversing cameras or parking sensors, would I get them if I were to own it? no I wouldn't, because often I don't like 3rd party technology added to my vehicle. The Tribute 670 is small and nimble, the split angle wing mirrors are excellent and more than ample.

That said, there is one addition that I would add if I owned the Tribute - a rear view mirror. Not only is there some visibility out of the back window which you could make use of with a rear view mirror but it would be very useful to have a quick glance at what is happening in the rest of vehicle while you are moving. If you have a child in rear seats or if you miss packed something and it moved during driving, simply being able to glance behind would be great. There is a fixing in place so I imagine this would be a cheap and easy to fit optional extra.

Overall

If after driving the distance from lands end to John O'Groats and back and then on to Doncaster the only thing fault I can find is not having a rear view mirror, then driving the Tribute is very good in my opinion. This Tribute 670 model won the 2016 caravan and motorhome club "Design Innovation" award it is easy to see why.

For the beginner

If you are new to the leisure vehicle market or new to motorhoming, a more automotive driving experience you will not find (to use technical jargon).. in the real world, if you have never driven a motorhome before then driving the Tribute 670 compared to your average car is much like the difference between driving a Nissan Micra and Volvo estate.

For the experienced motorhomer

Give this a try - on paper the Tribute 670 doesn't come as standard with all the bells and whistles, and despite that probably being about range differentiation, the Tribute doesn't need them. If you have a big motorhome and are considering a smaller one or a small van conversion and are considering a bigger van conversion, the drive and the quality of the Tribute make it a very very capable.

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